Unexpectedly Unplugged: Off-Grid Living in our Homemade Home, Pt.1

Thank you, SLT readers & bloggers!

{I thought I’d take a bit of a break this weekend from preaching the traditional foods gospel to expose a more personal piece of life from from my little corner of the blogosphere. It’s still relevant to what we’re all about in our butter-believing, real-fooding lives (promise!), so I hope you’ll stay tuned!}

Being introduced to the world of real, traditional food has brought with it some fairly significant lifestyle changes. The daily rituals of soaking various grains, the hoarding of glass jars to use for fermentation and making dairy products, the eating of animal organs and other foods unfamiliar to my palate… But these anomalous new habits in my life have unexpectedly managed to coincide with taking natural living a major step further — ditching reliance on the power company.

My pre-husband (I can’t stand the word “fiancé”) and I made a big move a couple months ago from a fairly normal rental cottage in the suburbia of our island home of Oahu, to a 2 acre plot of off-grid, overgrown agricultural land on the north shore. Now, before anyone starts applauding our valiant efforts to rescue Mother Nature from the evils of imported fossil fuels, you should know that we didn’t actively seek out such hippified living.

We had been aching to move back to the slow-paced country shores up north for a while, and when the opportunity came for us to lease a portion of our friend’s newly acquired property, we carefully considered what that would entail.

The acreage was a… not-so-blank canvas. There were brush and trees and head-high grass overgrown everywhere other than our friend the landlord’s modest little dwelling consisting primarily of a circular yurt, an outdoor bathroom complete with compostable toilet (incredibly, not as gross as it sounds), a small structure for the kitchen, and a large shipping container to house the many batteries and solar panels needed to provide energy to the place. We would need to construct something similar.

In exchange for us building another little solar-run home on the property, half the land was ours to lease for two years. Pre-husband being a contractor by trade, constructing such a home was well within our reach. After our then-current landlord decided to raise the already exorbitantly-high rent on us, we decided to dive in head first into country living powered by the tropical sun.

With time not exactly on our side after we gave our notice, we had to make a few changes to what we had envisioned being the plan for setting up life on the solar home front. Rather than fully constructing our own digs from scratch, we were blessed to be able to barter PH’s carpentry skills for an already-existing (but quite unfinished) little cottage from a neighbor, which we then had to move by truck and trailer onto the property, and subsequently lift up onto 3 foot stilts! We also managed to acquire a shipping container that we had thought would end up being more of a garage, but with the cottage being only about 200 square feet, the big steel box became our bedroom for the time being.

“Country living” was more or less country camping for quite a while! We had no running water for about a week, no appliances such as a refrigerator (hello, cooler and daily trips to the store for ice bags!) or full-time electricity to power them for another couple weeks, and no TOILET for about 3 1/2! Needless to say, there were a few bumps in the road in getting everything set up. The toilet, for example, had to be shipped in from the mainland and reportedly “missed the boat,” literally, several times.

We washed dishes off the deck with a hose.

We dined by the light of numerous tiki torches.

We laundered clothes with a bucket and a hole-y plunger! (inspired by this ingenious dude’s YouTube video).

Bit-by-bit, with each hardware store visit, and each new piece installed, we slowly transitioned to a living space more resonant to normal human functioning. A (cold) shower to use in the bathroom, a sink to brush our teeth in, a light fixture to illuminate the room with a mere flick of a switch — such luxuries were appreciated like never before.

Being without a kitchen, however, was the hardest part of all for me, a new and eager explorer of traditional foods. There was but a tiny empty room needing to be filled with cabinets, counter tops, a sink, refrigerator, and oven range — never mind the various optional gadgets and small appliances I would be yearning for such as a dehydrator, juicer, and grain mill.

Without even the basics though, was I stuck? How was I to begin replacing processed bread products with whole, homemade sourdough? How could I prepare nutrient-dense bone broths and stocks needing to be slowly simmered over a stove? How was I to sprout my seeds and nuts? Keep real dairy products on hand? Brew fermented drinks? Cook practically anything in Nourishing Traditions?

Well, turns out there are more than a few things most ANYONE can do — camping in the Hawaiian countryside or not! Next in this series, I’ll share the baby steps I began taking toward a healing, healthful diet (sans kitchen!), and how our happy little campsite is coming along… (it now even has indoor plumbing!)


{This post is participating in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist as well as Simple Lives Thursday!}

{1st photo credit}

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.

25 Responses to Unexpectedly Unplugged: Off-Grid Living in our Homemade Home, Pt.1
  1. Natalie says:

    I am VERY impressed, Em! Great blog, great ideas and great writing. All you need is a visit from me (but I’ll wait until you have an indoor shower with WARM water).

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you so much Natalie!! HA! Yes I don’t blame you for holding out for the hot water… I’ll bet my mother wishes she would have followed suit! :)

  2. Nik says:

    You’re the Bear Grylls of homemade living. Good work!

  3. Martha says:

    Looking forward to part 2!

  4. I love it! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures. I can totally understand your struggles without a kitchen though! Traveling for 9 months in New Zealand without a pantry to call my own has made me long for home 😉
    Would love to see more pictures–my husband and I visited friends on Oahu a couple years ago and the North Shore was one of our favorite places!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thanks, Lori! Oh my goodness, you definitely know how it is to go kitchenless, then, huh? How lucky to be in NZ though, that’s actually where we plan on going for our honeymoon! Well, thankfully things are really starting to shape up around here, so hopefully I will have another update soon, and yes, definitely more pictures! Thanks for reading. :)

  5. Emily says:

    Sounds like quite the adventure! Have fun during this transitional time. :)

  6. […] Unexpectedly Unplugged: Off-Grid Living in our Homemade Home, Pt.1 […]

  7. […] after setting up camp here at our country home, we became introduced to the glorious world of local, grass-finished, […]

  8. […] Unexpectedly Unplugged by Butter Believer. This blogger’s embracing of traditional food practices coincided with […]

  9. […] Unexpectedly Unplugged by Butter Believer. This blogger’s embracing of traditional food practices coincided with […]

  10. Wow, I am impressed. Those are some serious challenges, easier when there are no kids, but certainly not easy. By the way, the plunger washer is brilliant. I had seen the metal one in the Lehman’s catalog and had wondered if a rubber plugger would work. Now I know.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Oh man. I don’t know WHAT I would do if we had little ones around right now! I’d be plunging laundry all day long! Haha. It does work pretty well in a pinch though! Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!

  11. […] Unexpectedly Unplugged by Butter Believer. This blogger’s embracing of traditional food practices coincided with […]

  12. melissa says:

    What a great thing to blog about- I’m sure we can all learn a few things about saving energy from this!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you so much for reading! Oh yes, definitely have learned a thing or two about energy usage, now that we have to be so conscious of it. Water, too — the plumbing gets drained into a catchment system, so we try to be as conservative as we can so we don’t overfill the containers and have a swamp on our hands! I will be sure to share what we’ve learned so far. :)

  13. Becky says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog from Simple Lives Thursday. :) I’m loving reading about your switch to a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been making the switch gradually over the past 6 years or so and it’s been so good for me and my family. Our dream is to get a few acres in a few years and really start homesteading. :) I can’t wait to read more about your adventure!

  14. […] time. I’d been putting it off not out of intimidation or my own hesitation, but necessity. We didn’t even have a kitchen, much less a stove to prepare such things, for quite some […]

  15. […] and “hippie” —  I mean, I even moved into a solar-powered off grid cottage and basically went camping in my own home for several months without so much as running hot water or a […]

  16. […] — so basically, everything you’ll be eating. If I lived in a regular house instead of a solar-powered hippie one, I would have multiple crock pots, so that one could always have stock in it going 24/7, since you […]

  17. […] know, I know. I’m being a dirty hippie […]

  18. Frank Giglio says:

    Happy to have found this website and post. My wife, child and I just moved off grid in central Maine. We are 3 months into the move and really love the lifestyle, yet are still figuring things out. I look forward to checking back and watching the progress.. :)

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